Triumph of the Rajput: Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the fascist aesthetics of Padmaavat
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat (2018) re-tells the legendary tale of the Rajput queen Padmavati. In recounting this tale, Bhansali hews to the historic, Manichaean dichotomization of Hindu and Muslim, presenting Rajputs as entirely noble figures and Muslim invaders as essentially barbaric. Employing Susan Sontag’s and Frank Tomasulo’s theorizations of the cinema of Leni Riefenstahl, this article examines how Bhansali glorifies the Rajputs’ purported history via his fascist aesthetics. Such an approach rearticulates history as myth and presents it as a form of theatre. This article analyses Bhansali’s use of such aesthetics to reenact the Manichaean framing of Hindu–Muslim relations, which reaffirm contemporary chauvinistic formulations of the (Hindu) nation. In the process, Bhansali’s film can be seen as lending support to the ideology of contemporary fundamentalist Hindu forces.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Sonoma State University
Publication date: January 1, 2019
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- Studies in South Asian Film and Media (SAFM) is the most promising new journal in the field. This peer-reviewed publication is committed to looking at the media and cinemas of the Indian subcontinent in their social, political, economic, historical, and increasingly globalized and diasporic contexts. The journal will evaluate these topics in relation to class, caste, gender, race, sexuality, and ideology.
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